Fire Drill

1:51 am – The sound came from far away, a faint but familiar noise somewhere in the distance. Within a few seconds it grows confusingly louder, until I realize it’s the phone ringing. I stumble downstairs in the darkness and silently pick it up.

“Meet me there, we are leaving now” is all I hear. Click.

1:53 am – Knowing this is just another fire drill, I quickly dress, and grab a hat, my wallet and keys. On the way out, I see the Go Bag near the stairs, but leave it there. “No need,” I mumble, and jump into the car. We had just done this same drill the day before yesterday, and I exhale impatiently, back out of the driveway, and turn on the radio.

I try to calculate how long this will take, and when I’ll be back. I also kick myself – I should have said it:  “We have a Monday morning appointment, can we just wait until then?”

1:58 am – Wandering out of my thoughts, I realize the radio static and look for another station. No luck. This car sucks. I turn it off and notice no one else on the road. It’s a lonely quiet drive on Kalanianaole Highway, one I’ve done many many times. But usually in the other direction. Usually at dawn, usually on a full buzz.

2:04 am – It starts to rain. Drops hit the roof, hood and windshield. I zone out, watching the drops fill the windshield before wiping them away.

I keep the radio off, and soak in the silence and the solitude. There is just the sound of my car and the hum of the tires on the road. The windshield wipers slowly cross my sightline as if to slowly wash away the sins and troubles of my past.

2:09 am – I open the window just a bit to feel the cool night air. I am unshaven and scruffy, no razor or toothbrush. As usual, unprepared. But it’s just a fire drill.

As I roll on the Star of the Sea overpass, the raindrops become a little bigger and there are still no other cars in sight. A weird feeling pushes away the annoyance, and a strange comfort and calm settle into my car, as if a blessing is being handed to me, climbing aboard to join me on this journey into tomorrow.  In this quiet calm, I wonder how my life will change. It’s certainly time and long overdue.

I hate hospitals, always have. I only go there in a worst-case scenario. This is not that. This is a fire drill. I arrive in the lobby and there’s no one in sight. I drive pretty fast, but did I beat them here? I ask an older lady at the desk, and she tells me to go to Room 853? Is still a drill?

2:27 am – The elevator opens and I’m in a busy hallway. Lots of people hurrying back and forth, sounds burst through the calm and quiet of my journey here.

I see her parents sitting on the chairs outside 853, and they quickly stand and anxiously tell me to hurry. “We’re leaving” I hear them say behind me as I wonder how far this fire drill will go.

The room is chaotic. She sees me arrive and reaches her arms out to me. There is both fatigue and a hint of fear in her eyes and I wonder what she sees the same in mine. We hold hands as the unknown ushers us forward.

There is some time to talk, but the nurses are circling and it’s getting closer. We begin the breathing process, and she holds the egg we made, focusing on days and weeks past. She squeezes my hand as the escalating pain gives way to her final reluctant okay for the meds.

Over the next four hours, there’s a mix of voices, emotions, sounds and activity. Every minute passes both agonizingly slow and eyeblink fast, but we are rushing forward and I know I won’t remember half of this. I wished I had shaved and brushed my teeth.

6:43am – Suddenly I’m someone else. Changed, forever.

“She’s 5 pounds and 6 ounces,” I hear in the background, as waves of emotion pass through me.  I check on Tara, kiss her forehead and look on as she holds our baby girl. A promise of a new life, a new path, and solid ground. This is not a drill.

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